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How to work well with the selfish colleague

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We are working in an environment in which we often hear the buzz words: team, team building, collaboration and their synonyms.

The experts have urged managers in organisations to work collaboratively with their  teams to achieve the objectives of the organisation.

However, in many organisations - educational, non-educational, governmental or non-governmental - there is at least one worker who scoffs at the idea of team work. This colleague exhibits the following behaviours:

1. She is not interested in briefing sessions or any other form of staff meeting. This person attends these meetings but when she does, she stares blankly at nothing, seeming to be in another place at another time, or is obviously annoyed by the goings on, from time to time muttering to herself or rolling her eyes as the team leader outlines the tasks to be completed that day.

This person usually separates herself from other colleagues, and if she is prodded to come closer, she reluctantly does, but stays at the fringe of the group. And this person does not contribute anything to discussions. If this person is pressed for a comment, this person says, in a very clipped, painstakingly polite voice, "It's okay," then her eyes wander off into some great void. She has nothing else to contribute to the proceedings. The tone of voice says it all.

Don't stress about the attitude of this employee. Be thankful that she has attended the briefing. She may not like the formalities of the organisation but at least she likes her job.

2. This person wants to be given her job description and be left to do the job without interference from anyone, supervisor or colleagues. As long as she thinks she knows what to do, she wants to be left alone to do what she thinks needs to be done.

Leave this colleague be. As long as she gets the job done well, it is a win-win situation.

3. If this colleague is swamped with work that she is doing for the organisation and other colleagues volunteer to help, she refuses this help because, as she says, the work is her job and she knows what she is doing.

This behaviour of this selfish colleague often frustrates other colleagues who cannot complete their work on a timely basis because the completion of their work depends on the completion of the work that the selfish colleague is doing.

You won't get anywhere by chastising this colleague. Take a deep breath, find something else to do as this colleague takes her own sweet time to complete her bit of the work. At least she is willing to work.

4. If she is asked to work with a team, she is only concerned with the part of the work that she has to do, nothing else. She carefully does the part of the work that is assigned to her and leaves the rest to be done by those colleagues whose responsibility it is to do it. It doesn't matter that some colleagues may have been re-assigned to do tasks that have a direct bearing on the team's activity.

This colleague believes in doing her part. It is okay to sigh, roll your eyes and do your part and more if it is your nature to go beyond the call of duty.

5. She doesn't hang out in the same areas in which her colleagues hang out. Instead, she creates space away from her colleagues to revel in her own company.

Leave her alone. If she joins you she may suck the life out of the room.  She loves her company. You love the company of others.

6. She likes to direct her colleagues in doing their jobs in the way that she thinks it should be done but she does not like to be given directions.

Listen to her. If her instruction causes you to work more efficiently and effectively than you have been doing, take her advice. If not, ignore her.

7. She hates to make mistakes in any aspect of her work, but she does make mistakes. She hates when anyone witnesses her mistakes and she particularly hates when anyone comments on them. As a result, instead of admitting that she has made a mistake she tries to fix it, sometimes unsuccessfully, a failure which puts her into a deeper funk than that caused by the original mistake.

Let her sulk. If you can correct the mistake, do so. Be gentle!

8. She is a pro at ignoring those colleagues and/or clients who in her estimation have wronged her in some way.

Ensure that her job is not on the front line. If it is, you will realise that at specific periods you are losing your clients, except the longsuffering ones.

9. She does not want to be seen as a slacker, so she wants to be directly involved in every aspect of the work in the department in which she works. And she wants to be told exactly what is going on in that department as every activity unfolds and exactly what she needs to do to assist. She wants her share of the task. If she is bypassed, not because she is incompetent, but because she is already engaged in some other activity, she feels slighted and until she gets over her feelings of hurt, she looks through the perceived offenders whenever and wherever she passes them. And, she finds other creative ways to ignore offenders.

Ignore her as well. She will eventually bury those feelings of hurt, only to nurture new ones. It is her way.

10. On rare occasions this colleague is quite collegial. During these times, she likes to be the centre of attention while she shares on a wide range of topics that interest her. However, she, oftentimes, shows scant interest in the stories of others, unless they are ones which allow her to dispense her wisdom.

Let her talk. You may learn something about her that will help you to develop some understanding of her.

The selfish colleagues prove challenging to work with, to associate with and to manage. But they are here to stay.

Share your stories of your interactions with the selfish colleague and how you have managed them below.

My name is Janette Fuller. Welcome to my blog! You may learn about me here


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